British judge rules against Qataris in royal building row

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A British judge ruled Friday that Qatari developers breached a contract for a high-profile London building project, after a controversial intervention by Prince Charles.

But the High Court judge said leading London developer Christian Candy was not entitled to a payment sought from development company Qatari Diar (QD) over the failed project, following the "unwelcome" royal interference.

Candy's CPC Group sued his Qatari partners in the prestigious Chelsea Barracks scheme in central London for breach of contract over the three billion pound (4.5 billion dollar, 3.5 billion euro) project.

The row went public after it emerged that Prince Charles had written to the Emir of Qatar's family criticising the plans by leading architect Richard Rogers, best known for the iconic Pompidou Centre in Paris.

The Emir decided that the planning application for the modernist scheme for 650 flats must be withdrawn after meeting the prince, the court was told. The heir to the British throne is an outspoken critic of much modern architecture.

Giving his ruling Friday, judge Geoffrey Vos ruled that the Qatari partners breached their contract with Candy by withdrawing a planning application after Charles' intervention.

But the judge ruled that CPC has no right to claim an early payment of 68.5 million pounds under the contract.

Candy had alleged "bad faith" by the Qataris, but the judge found that QD was acting in the best way it could in "a very difficult political situation" to secure planning permission in the shortest possible time.

"It was making the best of a bad job," he added.

The judge also highlighted the problem caused by the prince's intervention, saying the British and Qatari partners "were faced with a very difficult position once the Prince of Wales intervened in the planning process.

"His intervention was, no doubt, unexpected and unwelcome," he said.

A spokesman for the Qatari developer said "CPC's aim in bringing this action was ultimately about money. They wanted early payment of a sum potentially due to them under a contract and they have failed."

The Chelsea Barracks site, in one of London's most expensive residential areas, was sold by the Ministry of Defence for 959 million pounds to the consortium of CPC and the Qatari group.

© 2010 AFP

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